Saudi Arabia furious at plan to declassify 9/11 documents
Published 20/04/2016 | 02:30
PRESIDENT Obama has worsened his rift with America's key Middle East ally Saudi Arabia by saying his staff are considering declassifying documents that allegedly link the kingdom to the 9/11 al-Qa'ida attacks.
Mr Obama is to attend a summit of Gulf leaders in the Saudi capital Riyadh tomorrow with relations already at their lowest for decades over the United States' rapprochement with Iran, the Sunni Gulf allies' feared Shia rival for Middle East leadership.
Saudi Arabia is also furious at a Bill before Congress that would make it possible for relatives of the 9/11 dead to sue Saudi Arabia.
Campaigners allege that 28 pages of the official congressional report into the events of September 11, 2001, that have been kept secret implicate Saudi officials in supporting or funding al-Qa'ida.
Mr Obama said in an interview before his departure for Riyadh that James Clapper, director of National Intelligence, was reviewing the classified file to see what could be made public. "My understanding is that he's about to complete that process," he said.
Saudi Arabia was joined by other Gulf countries in fury when the US signed the nuclear deal with Iran, bringing the country in from the cold. The preliminary negotiations were done without Saudi Arabia even being informed. Mr Obama has refused to back down.
The row over the classified section of the 9/11 report has rumbled for years and spawned numerous conspiracy theories over the attack. However, the bid to open the document is led by Senator Robert Graham, a Democrat who served on the commission of inquiry.
Though he is not allowed to reveal the contents, he has indicated that it accuses some Saudi officials of involvement, though the conclusion absolves the Saudi government as an entity of responsibility.
Mr Obama is threatening to veto the Bill, but all four leading presidential candidates - Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders - have indicated they support it.
Saudi Arabia's ambassador went so far as to threaten to sell the country's huge dollar holdings if the Bill went ahead, saying it would be necessary to prevent them being frozen subject to a court case.
The administration has been keen to reassure Saudi Arabia in advance of the trip that it remains a lynch-pin of US security planning in the Middle East.
"I don't think that there can be any confusion or ambiguity on who is our partner in the region, and who isn't," said Rob Malley, Mr Obama's Middle East adviser. (© Daily Telegraph, London)